Yes Man

Reviewer: Dave Cunningham

Writer and Director: Daniel Glenn-Barbour

Leading characters are traditionally forceful and dynamic; yet with Yes Man writer and director Daniel Glenn-Barbour takes the unusual approach of building a narrative around a protagonist who is passive and submissive.

Darrell (Kieton Saunders-Browne) sees his father’s willingness to give up his medical practice so his mother could open a flower shop to be a sign of weakness. Yet he may have absorbed his father’s outlook on life and is constantly acquiescing to the requests of others; a tendency which has already resulted in him serving a prison sentence. Darrell walks out of the low-level white-collar corporate job arranged by his mother and drifts into small-time crime with a gang run by partners Ryan (Keon Martial-Phillip) and Ben (Kirk Smith). Darrell is held in low regard as a ‘Yes Man’ until a surprising burst of violence propels him up the ladder of his default career.

Daniel Glenn-Barbour covers familiar topics in a fresh manner. Yes Man walks along well-trodden ground with a grinding grime soundtrack from Jonathan Clark, men constantly whinging about being entitled to ‘respect’ and women with unrealistic career aspirations. The atmosphere is squalid rather than glamorous as the characters are under-achieving bottom-feeders who spend more time sat around on sofas than selling drugs and, far from seeking trouble, run at the first sign of violence. The film is bang up to date with the gang members being reminded to wash their hands during the covid-pandemic.

There is a sense the characters, lacking any type of role model, are basing themselves on people they have seen on television. Drug dealers Ben and Ryan behave as if they are legitimate entrepreneurs using phrases like ‘short-term solution plan’ they do not really understand and discussing how best to motivate their gang. They tend to speak in trite mottoes ‘’Think about what you want and how you are going to get it’’.  Behaving as if she is a corporate high-flyer Darrell’s former boss becomes his first customer seeking to purchase drugs and, it is later revealed, runs her company into the ground due to her habit.

Kieton Saunders-Browne’s no-hope performance displays sullen resignation; an acceptance that limited options are pushing Darrell in a single direction. Keon Martial-Phillip is ambiguous with Ryan claiming to be dealing drugs to raise funds to open a legitimate restaurant. Yet, despite his rhetoric, Ryan never cooks a meal, shows an interest in food or expresses concern about the impact of covid upon his chosen profession, which raises doubts as to the practicality of his ambitions.

Daniel Glenn-Barbour’s dialogue mixes the authentic with the awkward. Conversations between the drug dealers (in which narcotics are referred to as ‘food’ and everyone is greeted as’ bruv’ or ‘cuz’) strain comprehension but sound credible. But when the author wants to make a small ‘p’ political point he slides into textbook phrasing. During unlikely small talk a potential girlfriend tells Darrell ‘’You repress your feelings too much – that’s why there’s such poor mental health in this area’’

Although Yes Man avoids many of the clichés associated with the urban crime genre the occasionally clumsy dialogue prevents it from being wholly satisfactory.

Yes Man is available on Digital Download from 13th June.

Avoids cliches

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The Reviews Hub Film Team is under the editorship of Maryam Philpott.

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